A blogger’s words are like a store’s inventory. If merchandise is stolen, the shop loses sales. If others are stealing a blogger’s words or using his content, there’s really no reason for him to bother anymore as. Exclusive content is important for traffic and ad sales. In short, it sucks when someone else is using the fruits of our labor to build traffic and community for their own blogs and websites. Here’s something many brand new bloggers don’t know: It’s illegal to take someone’s content without asking.
Several years ago I had a few very famous battles with content thieves, and I’m happy to report I won each. The uproar over content theft (or content-jacking as Michael Stelzner calls it) seems to have died down a bit, with it, the ability to fight the scammy and spammy people who steal our words. After dealing with it again over this past weekend, I learned many newer bloggers had no idea they could fight content theft and that it was illegal. Thus, this brief primer.
Why steal content?
Why would anyone want to steal content from a blogger? Really, it doesn’t have as much to do with the blog or the blogger as much as it has to do with stocking a blog with content in order to bring in traffic and revenue. It takes too much time and money to write or hire writers to create enough posts for a profitable, popular blog. However, some unsavory types use feeds to pull in content relating to certain keywords and phrases to stock their own blogs. The readers of these blogs have no idea the content isn’t original and that it’s being pulled from feeds. Many of these splogs or spam blogs use a partial feed so if readers want to read the entire post, they can click through to the original blog. The damage is already done, though, as readers went to the spam blog first. Of those original readers, maybe half will click through to read the real blog post.
How do I know if someone is using my content without permission?
There are are several ways to check to make sure your content isn’t being ripped off:
Google Alerts: Sign up for Google alerts using your blog’s url, title and your name. Not all ripoff bloggers will link to your blog, but if they do it will show up in Google alerts. Some bloggers even set up alerts for the titles of some of their posts now and then to find out who is ripping them off on a regular basis.
Search Engines: Use quotes to run unique sentences through various search engines to see if anyone besides you is using your content.
Deep Linking/Pingbacks: If you link to other posts in your blog, you will receive pingbacks every time someone posts your content.
Copy Scape: Copyscape is sort of a search engine where you can run links to your blog posts and it will tell you if anyone else is posting the same content. You’re only allowed the first few each month for free, so choose wisely.
CopyGator: CopyGatpor detects who is using your feeds for their content. I haven’t tried this service before, so I can’t recommend but it’s free and worth a shot. There are several ways it works, the first is to post the CopyGator widget n your blog, the widget changes colors every time someone rips off your content. You can also enter a specific feed and receive alerts.
How do I get a content thief to remove my content?
Content thieves can be nice or nasty. They’re counting on your not wanting to be bothered with a whole lot of email and ceases and desists. They’re thinking you probably don’t know this sort of thing is an illegal copyright violation. In fact, some even try and convince you that if it’s on the web, it’s public domain. It’s not. If someone has stolen your content, you can ask them nicely to remove it from their blogs. If they refuse to comply, go ahead and send a cease and desist. Give them a day or two to comply. If they still don’t take down their content, contact their host. You can find out who is hosting a blog by doing a whois domain search. In most cases, the host will give the offending blogger 24 hours to remove the content or lose hosting.
Jonathon Bailey of Plagiarism Today has a fantastic set of stock DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) letters to use to request the removal of stolen content. He has sample letters for the content thief, the host and even for search engines. Usually when I send a cease and desist to the content thief, I don’t have to resort to contacting the host, but I have done so several times. These letters are a great tool for any blogger’s arsenal.
Don’t Let Content Thieves Get Away With It
Content thieves get away with their theft because they can. They do it because they figure no one will fight them on it. Don’t let them get away with it. They’re your words and if someone is going to use them, you should be adequately compensating.
It’s really a gray issue; some bloggers may cite they are using it under “Creative Commons” license.
@Stefan – Unless it’s specifically noted that the content falls under the Creative Commons, bloggers can’t say they have rights to someone else’s content. My rule of thumb is if you don’t have permission, don’t use it. It never hurts to ask first.
Very nice information. People should respect others content.
I am fairly new to blogging. Is it considered theft if you post who the original author is?